Procrastination Station

You may have noticed that I haven’t been posting quite as often the last little while. It has been awfully busy in WordBlogland the past couple of months, but I suspect there may have been a teensy bit of procrastination involved, too. So to give you something to hold you over until my next entry, I’ve gathered a few fun word-related sites to help you while away your time.

You’ll find lots of rebuses to exercise your mind at NIEHS Rebus Brainteasers page, and a great list of record-breaking words at And if you really want to get lazy and avoid writing, visit the The Morty Skusting Writing Avoidance Center—it will automatically create memos, band names, postmodernist scholarship, and more so you don’t have to.  Enjoy!

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Vest-Pocket Vocabulary

Since so many of you will be toiling away on your entries for the Vest-Pocket Challenge, I thought I’d take this opportunity to demonstrate the value of vocabulary.

Copyright 2006 Indexed and Jessica Hagy

For example you might explain to your boss that you need to take a sick day because you have an appointment at the zythepsary. Or go home early because you’re feeling a bit luskish.

So three cheers for vocabulary. High quality excuses for everyone!

You can find a complete listing of the Word Blog’s Vest-Pocket Vocabulary entries and learn more about where they come from here.

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Sometimes you just need a hyphen. You really do. Here’s proof:

He was a big-city worker, a cold-case officer with slicked-back hair.

is very different from

He was a big city worker, a cold case officer with slicked back hair.

In the first case we have an urbanite with a sleek coiffure who works on cold cases . In the second we have a large, chilly case officer with very tidy back hair who works for the city.

Are you convinced those hyphens are worth it?

Now, it isn’t necessary to hyphenate every compound adjective. When only one meaning is possible, those hyphens aren’t really necessary. This is the part where you use your discretion.

Sometimes you’ll see that a missing hyphen could radically change your message. Sometimes you’ll see that, although it won’t really change your message, those hyphens will prevent your reader from backtracking and rereading your sentence. Sometimes they won’t make any difference at all.

In my view, accuracy and ease of reading are both equally important. Of course I want the right message, but what good will it do if I chase off readers with hard-to-read prose? For that reason I tend to err on the side of caution in my use of hyphens.

When not to hyphenate:

When the adjective comes after the thing it describes: The hyphen is really only needed when the compound adjective comes before the thing it describes: while slicked back hair is confusing hair that’s slicked back isn’t.

When you have an adverb ending in -ly: Likewise, hyphens should be left out of any compounds formed with an adverb ending in -ly.  There’s nothing confusing about an utterly baffling instruction manual (except the manual itself, of course!).

Hyphen comic by


Guest Post

Today’s guest post is brought to you by Stephanie. You can find her over at This is her first flowchart. Be nice.

Have you ever been frustrated by the lack of proper spelling and grammar on the Internet? It is a dangerous, scary world out there. Venture away from the Word Blog for just one second and you might (will) find spelling errors, an astonishing lack of respect for capital letters, and inconsistencies galore. You will also probably develop a prominent desire to [sic]. I understand.

So when should you relax? When is it okay to stop using the shift key? Don’t worry. Just print out this chart, keep it handy, and watch all your Internet word-usage insecurities disappear.

Click on the flowchart to see a larger version of it.


Some of you may have seen this very impressive performance before, but it is so extremely funny that I doubt you will mind watching it again. And that is a very good thing since I’m too under the weather today to create new content for you, and since I could also use a good laugh. So without further ado here is…The Impotence of Proofreading:

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I’m reading A Short History of the Printed Word, and it’s reminded me of what an amazing technology books are. You might hear a little more about the book when I’ve finished reading it, but in the meantime I thought I’d post a couple of fun entertainments about the wonder of the printed page:

And there’s more fun book humour below:

[click to continue…]

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